Science

Disney tech lets users feel 3D objects on flat screens

Disney tech lets users feel 3D...
A user of Disney's new system is able to feel the ridges in a trilobite fossil, even though it's displayed on a completely flat screen
A user of Disney's new system is able to feel the ridges in a trilobite fossil, even though it's displayed on a completely flat screen
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A user of Disney's new system is able to feel the ridges in a trilobite fossil, even though it's displayed on a completely flat screen
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A user of Disney's new system is able to feel the ridges in a trilobite fossil, even though it's displayed on a completely flat screen
A depth map of the trilobite fossil
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A depth map of the trilobite fossil
The Disney algorithm customizes the amount of friction "on the fly," allowing it to operate quickly enough that it can be used even with moving video
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The Disney algorithm customizes the amount of friction "on the fly," allowing it to operate quickly enough that it can be used even with moving video

Our smartphones and tablets may be able to show us what things look and sound like, but with their flat glass screens, there's no way that they could indicate what something feels like ... right? Actually, they may soon be able to do that, too. Researchers at Disney Research, Pittsburgh have developed a system that lets users' fingertips feel a simulated bump through a flat screen, that corresponds to a bump in the displayed image.

Ordinarily, when we feel a bump as we're sliding our finger across a smooth surface, we do so because the increase in friction created by the bump causes the skin in our fingertip to stretch ever so slightly.

In order to simulate that friction, the Disney team uses a conductive display in which the electrostatic forces between the finger and the glass can be modulated by applying more or less voltage to the screen. An algorithm keeps track of the location and speed of the user's moving fingertip, and adjusts the "electrovibrations" to match the topography of the part of the image that's being touched.

So far, the images must be either 3D models or the product of scans done with depth sensors such as the Kinect, so the algorithm has depth data to work with.

The Disney algorithm customizes the amount of friction "on the fly," allowing it to operate quickly enough that it can be used even with moving video
The Disney algorithm customizes the amount of friction "on the fly," allowing it to operate quickly enough that it can be used even with moving video

According to project leader Ali Israr, traditional haptic feedback systems draw on a library of pre-programmed effects that are individually brought into play as needed. By contrast, the Disney algorithm customizes the amount of friction "on the fly," allowing it to operate quickly enough that it can be used even with moving video.

That speed could potentially also allow for real-time tactile images to be obtained through portable depth-sensing cameras, letting visually-impaired users "feel" objects in front of them.

Disney has already integrated related technology into its REVEL system, and tech company Senseg is developing similar technology.

More information is available in the video below.

Source: Disney Research

Tactile Rendering of 3D Features on Touch Surfaces

8 comments
BigGoofyGuy
I think that is way cool. I hope they continue to develope it so that it can be done with non-3d objects.
Bob Flint
Add on infrared, and thermal feedback, pliable screens, and see where this goes...
Slowburn
Ol' Walt will spin in his grave when this gets to its majority user porn.
Ernest Joseph Roberts
This will be very useful in places like the Situation Room because it gives a deeper perspective to satellite photographs. Military planners will have more tactile information to guide decision making. This technology will also benefit visually impaired students in fields such as medicine.
George X
I think this would be a great idea if it is used on touch keyboards as a button feel, or the actual letters, or numbers, etc. This 3D Feel definitely has a lot of unrealized potential !
Gary Fisher
Coming from Disney it's likely the "bumps" won't all be trilobites.
Fred Borman
Braille on a smartphone?
kankdev
Hey its really interesting but now fujitsu also does it read here how you can feel an image...